Updated: Oct 5, 2020
Every homeowner has been there. You open the power bill and think, "Why does electricity cost so much?"
Maybe you've been thinking about alternative energy sources but don't know where to start.
How do solar panels work? How does solar power save money on your electric bill, and is the investment worth it? What if there are too many clouds, and do solar panels work at night?
Solar power is one of the fastest-growing energy sources in the U.S. It's projected to grow to 48% of renewable energy production by 2050.
With a few tips and resources, you can learn all about solar panels and how they can be beneficial to you, whether you're interested in installing them for your home or your business.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels work by converting light energy from the sun into electricity. They are made up of photovoltaic cells, which comes from the Greek word for light (photo) combined with a form of the word voltage, which is named after an Italian physicist.
These cells are essentially two layers of silicon that are treated in different ways so that they release electrons when struck with photons, or light particles, from the sun. It is these released electrons that become the electricity you use.
Since the physical mechanism of releasing electrons holds for almost any thickness of the silicon layers, solar panels can be made extremely thin, sometimes even thinner than a human hair.
However, when thinking about putting solar panels on your home or business, you will also need to take into consideration the strength and durability of the panels. They need to be able to withstand negative effects from the weather.
Clouds and Rain
Clouds and rain can have many effects on your solar panels. Since they work by using light from the sun, anything that blocks the sun's light can cause an issue.
When there are lots of clouds in the sky, your solar panels will not work as well, but they will still generate some electricity. This is because some of the light still gets through the clouds, and some can be reflected from other objects on Earth.
If you think about it, even on a cloudy day, you can still see in front of you, which means there must be some light from the sun still getting through.
As a general rule of thumb, if there is enough light to see shadows on the ground, your solar panels will be able to generate electricity well enough.
In addition, if it is only partly cloudy, the clouds can have a positive effect on your solar panel's energy production. This is because the edges of clouds can act as a lens, focusing the light from the sun in a particular location.
Whenever the edges of clouds pass directly between the sun and your solar panels, the electricity generated can be expected to increase.
The rain can also affect your solar panel's ability to generate electricity, but maybe not in a way you'd think. While the clouds producing the rain will typically block some light from the sun, the rain itself can be beneficial.
When it rains on solar panels, the water can wash off any dust or dirt that has built up on the surface, which will increase the amount of electricity they produce, making them even more efficient.
What Is Green Energy?
Green energy, or renewable energy, refers to any energy source that is naturally replenished on a timescale comparable to a person's lifetime and doesn't cause major harm to the Earth, such as releasing greenhouse gases.
Solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal energy sources would all be examples of renewable energy. However, only solar power can have a clear impact on an individual household.
Solar power can be an important step in switching to green energy sources, which will be necessary to protect the environment as we know it. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, solar power utilizes the sun to generate electricity.
Getting Money Back
One way that solar panels can be a good investment is net metering. Normally, the amount of electricity you use is kept by a meter, which is read by the power company.
However, when you have solar panels, it is possible to generate more electricity than you use, so the meter will read lower as time goes on. Some power companies give credits back based on how much electricity you put back into the system.
Even if you don't generate enough to get credits back, your power bill will almost certainly be lower than if you get all of your electricity from the power company.
In addition, the federal government provides a tax credit for the installation of solar panels.
Installation and Maintenance
There are many things to consider before installing your solar panels. After you determine how much energy you will need to generate and what kind of solar panels are right for you, you'll need to consider how to install them.
It would be good to get bids from trusted contractors to find out which one is best for you. You could even save more money by installing them yourself if you have the capability.
After you successfully install your solar panels, you will need to maintain them. Fortunately, basic maintenance is easy and is only required about two to four times a year.
Solar panels can collect dust and dirt just from being outside, so it is important to keep them clean. The rain can provide some cleaning, but it may not be enough to rely on regularly.
The basic cleaning of a solar panel is just a rinse with a hose or a spray from a leaf blower.
Solar panels are an important part of renewable energy, will help save money on your power bill, and can still work in cloudy and rainy weather.
Now that you know all about how solar panels work, feel free to check out our solar calculator. This tool lets you determine how many solar panels you will need to install for your home or business.
Once you know your solar needs, you can take the next step toward installation.